Thinking about delivering our rainbow was a source of anxiety for me the whole pregnancy. Since we didn’t find out about the extent of Oberon’s health issues until after he was born, I knew I wouldn’t feel like this pregnancy was truly different until baby was out and checked. I tried to prepare myself for being a total basket case during labor, but it turns out I was able to stay relatively centered.
A big part of that was having a scheduled induction. I had asked my doctors whether they would let me go past 40 weeks, and that started the conversation about having an induction, even though I wasn’t having a planned c-section. We talked about how anxiety would probably get more intense as my due date got closer, and how I’d just want him out and safe. I knew I could go into labor early, but I had an end date at least. An “I just have to make it to this date” date.
Since my delivery wasn’t an emergency, I was supposed to call ahead to make sure they had room for me. If Labor & Delivery was especially busy, they would bump me to the next day. The day of, my husband and I finished up chores and errands, got the last few things for the hospital bags, and had some food (I wasn’t sure if / when they’d let me eat at the hospital). It was so extremely different from the pre-hospital time with Oberon. With Oberon, my water broke in the early morning at 33 weeks 6 days, and we quickly assembled the partially packed hospital bags and headed into the hospital. On the day that was supposed to be my baby shower. This time around, there was a plan in place, and we were ready.
Then it was time to call. Turns out, they were busy and didn’t have a room for me. I was told to call back in a few hours to check again. It hit me a lot harder than I thought it would. I knew we could get bumped, but I really wanted the baby born as soon as possible. The thought of having to wait longer – obsessively counting movements – started breaking me down.
Thankfully, the nurse called me back about an hour later and told us to come on in. Yay! I hadn’t completely gone to pieces, but I felt so much better now that the show was on the road.
We got admitted and they started checking me out. Turns out, I was already having pretty regular contractions and was 1 cm dilated with a soft cervix. This was all good news. Getting hooked up to the monitors was even better – hearing that little heartbeat all the time was very reassuring. Of course, sometimes lil’ beastie would move away from the monitor and I’d get a bit panicky until his heartbeat got picked up again. I was also able to use the contraction monitor to try to figure out how I was feeling them. Once they started getting more intense, I could identify a very low cramping feeling. I couldn’t feel the overall tightening people talk about, just something similar to a really low menstrual cramp.
First up to get labor really started was a cervical balloon. Since my cervix was soft (and I had some pain medication in my IV), the insertion of the balloon wasn’t too bad. It was uncomfortable, but not incredibly painful. And then, we waited. We ate dinner, watched some Dr. Who on the iPad, and tried to get some sleep. In the middle of the night, the cervical balloon fell out when I was using the restroom. It startled me, but it was all OK. It just meant that my cervix had dilated larger than the balloon already. Another good sign.
The doctors talked to me about hormones to keep labor progressing. I pretty much just said, “do what you think is best.” It was the middle of the night, and I wanted the medical professionals leading the way.
A couple hours later – I’m not sure exactly when – the contractions were coming fast and furious and radiating low back pain. This was very familiar from my labor with Oberon. I knew it would only get much, much worse, so I asked for the epidural a little earlier this time around. I consciously tried to keep my mind blank to prevent worst case scenarios (or just bad case scenarios) from creeping in. Fortunately, I was able to go back to sleep once the epidural was working. Right before I drifted off, the nurses and doctors told me to call when I started having the urge to push and rectal pressure.
I never called them, because they actually woke me up. Based on baby’s heart rate, they knew something was up and things would happen soon. Someone started to check the dilation of my cervix and said, “oh, he’s right there.” They told me not to push.
Right away they started readying the room for the delivery itself, and they called my OB who was about 20 minutes away. Where I delivered, usually the doctors on shift will handle deliveries, but my OB wanted to deliver our baby if it was possible for her to. Waiting for her to get there made me a little worried. I had trouble vocalizing my concerns, but luckily my husband is a mind-reader and asked if baby was safe just sitting there in the birth canal waiting to be born. Everyone assured us it was fine and they were monitoring him and me very closely. I still was wrestling a little with thoughts of, “he could be out RIGHT NOW!”, but I ended up holding out for my doctor.
Once she was in the room, the pushing started. I think I had 3 pushes. Maybe 4. This boy wanted out!
He started screaming and crying almost immediately, and they put his blueish, slime-covered body on my chest right away. That’s the moment I let go and started crying. January 7, 2016 at 10:21am. He was here! Alive! Outside of my body! Lying on my body! It was so different from Oberon being whisked away. My second son peed all over me and the doctor. He nursed almost right away. It wasn’t until an hour or so had passed that they took him away to measure and check him out more closely. Sometime in there I got stitched up, and I couldn’t tell you when it was.
We started using his name – Everett! One thing I remember clearly, is when Everett opened his eyes for the first time. I was looking right at him, and he at me. His goopy eyelids slowly started to pull away from each other and he looked up at me. I love that the first thing he saw was me, and that I saw his little eyes when they opened for the first time.
Things as simple as being transferred to the Mother/Baby department were totally different this time around. Instead of being transferred all by myself, I was wheeled over with a baby on my chest and a husband walking beside me. Surrounded by family members instead of all alone.
This story is already pretty long, but a lot more happened while we were in the hospital. Pediatricians and nurses started voicing more and more concern with Everett’s breathing – it was a little too fast.
Around the same time, an ultrasound was done of Everett’s brain to make sure it had developed as expected, because of our history with his big brother. The ultrasound was clear, and our relief was palpable. I had convinced myself that this breathing thing was temporary and just because he was less than a day old. But it didn’t really get better the next day. Tests started being run, and I managed to keep it together until the NICU doctors were brought in and they started talking to us about admitting Everett.
It felt like all my muscles shut down. No. Not again.
The rational part of my brain knew that they wouldn’t be talking about the NICU if he didn’t need the care. And if he needs the care, he should get the care. Me sitting there, not wanting him to need extra care, wouldn’t fix it. On January 8 at just over a day old, Everett was admitted to the NICU. The nurse admitting him had been Oberon’s nurse too and she remembered us. It was a strange mix of emotions – I was glad for the familiarity, but also resistant to revisiting this place, these people, those memories and triggers. A lot of the emotional parts of me just shut down.
We started schlepping back and forth between my room and the NICU. The first time we were back in my room without Everett, I sobbed. My heart was in my throat, I didn’t know what to do, I wanted to just sleep for however long it took for things to be OK with Everett.
They admitted him to the NICU on a suspected infection, so he was started on antibiotics. This triggered me a lot of different ways – an IV put in my child, talk about infections – since that’s one of the theories on what happened with Oberon, the isolettes in the NICU, the nurses, the doctors. As shifts changed, we saw more familiar faces. Nearly everyone we recognized also recognized us.
No one wants to be a regular in the NICU, but that’s sort of how it felt.
I was able to continue nursing. It wasn’t until I was discharged (and Everett wasn’t) that I wasn’t there to feed him. I had expressed some extra colostrum in the hospital, but they also used formula that first night away. Going home to our house with an empty car seat was awful. I used the emotional check-out move again and just melted into the seat, dejected and frustrated.
It was obvious to look at, and one of the doctors even verbalized it – Everett was the healthiest baby in the NICU. He was full term, he didn’t have a respirator or extra oxygen. He was breastfeeding. My husband and I even talked about how we felt horrible for the other parents in our pod with obviously premature babies they couldn’t hold yet. And here we were passing Everett back and forth, breastfeeding, and handling all the monitor hook-ups ourselves. We know what it’s like to be parents of the sickest baby in the NICU, and now we were at the other end of the spectrum. Hopeful, but shell-shocked.
We were mentally preparing for at least five days in the NICU for the full course of antibiotics. And deep down, I was preparing a little bit for a horrible curve ball to come our way.
As it happened, it was a good curve ball that came, and the doctors decided to stop antibiotics early based on Everett’s lab results. At this point, the only thing that would keep us in the NICU longer was his jaundice levels. We were cautiously optimistic that he’d be discharged on January 11 at 4 days old and after 3 days in the NICU.
We stayed the night of January 10 in the parent room inside the NICU. We had stayed there the night before Obie was discharged, but this time Everett got to stay in the room with us. That room was triggering, but not as intensely as being thrown back into the NICU. We were focusing on getting better and going home.
We did get to all go home on January 11, and I could not get out of there fast enough. I was wheeled to the hospital exit with Everett on my lap, and Chris pulled the car around. I sat in the back seat next to Everett’s car seat and had my hand on his chest or under his nose feeling for breath the whole ride home.
We’d made it. As far as NICU stays go, 3 days has got to be on the very short side. As far as emotional upheaval, I have no idea where we end up. All I know is it’s over now. No more tubes, no more IVs, no more incessant beeping.
Everett’s just now a month old. I don’t think the nuts and bolts of caring for a healthy baby have surprised us much, but I’ve definitely had some emotional things sneak up on me. I often cry when it’s just me alone with Everett. I miss Oberon so much in those moments. I want to talk to Everett about his brother, even though it almost always ends with me crying.
I’m still in what I call robot-mode much of the time. I know Everett’s my son, I know my love for him will grow and grow, but it doesn’t always feel like it. I soothe him when he cries, feed him when he roots, change him when he’s wet, but it isn’t because of some emotional tug. It’s because I need to. It’s my job. I have no idea if this would have been how I am as a mom in the early weeks had I not lost Oberon. Or if it’s because I’m parenting after loss. Or if it’s leftover detachment from Everett’s surprise NICU stay.
All I know is I’m trying not to beat myself up about it too much. And trying to get to know my little rainbow, my second baby boy, my sweet lil’ e, my Evie, my Everett better every day.